There is a fundamental question making its way around the Capitol this session: should taxes be tied to users? For example, should those that drive more pay more for roads through gas taxes or tolls? Or should those directly utilizing our public schools pay more towards education? These items never quite correlate exactly, but there has always been a sense especially among conservatives that user taxes are better policy.
This session a bill has appeared from Republican Rep. David Lifferth. His bill would give a credit to parents who home school their children. The bill even allows home school students to attend their public school for certain courses while still qualifying for the credit. The argument is that by parents homeschooling their student, they are not users of the system and should receive an income tax credit. (Income tax revenue flows straight into the state’s education fund.)
But does the premise hold consistently for conservatives that nonusers of the public education system should pay less? Or the logical converse: that users should pay more?
Also this session Democrat Sen. Pat Jones introduced a bill that would phase out personal tax exemptions. The argument behind the bill is that families with children in public schools should pay towards the education of their children. Essentially, those using the system should pay for it. Conservatives have opposed the bill as a tax on families.
Wait, what? In one instance the premise of user tax is lauded, in the other condemned.
These bills are really cut from the same cloth. When only users are taxed for their direct use of public education it incentivizes removing children from school. It also becomes disincentive for families to have children. Both of these statements seem counterintuitive to the general sentiments of Utahns toward valuing public schools and families.
While Utahns are generally supportive of a parents right to home school, the theory behind Lifferth’s bill actually has nothing to do with homeschooling, and everything to do with whether direct users should bear the costs of the public education system. This tax credit carried further could be extended to: empty nesters, college students, and of course to those who never had children. The result of all of these tax credits would essentially become Sen. Jones’ proposal. It would require taxing families with children when they can least afford to pay, in a sense it becomes a regressive tax hurting low to moderate income families the most.
When it comes to education, there needs to be a shift in thinking. Everyone benefits from an educated populace, everyone is essentially a user, and everyone should contribute to a quality public education system.
This post originally appeared on Utah Moms Care.